Princess of Amarna Queen of Destiny
This is the first page of Ankhesenamun's biography.
|Page Note: Italic text portrays author's fictional verse. Default text conveys historical information.
We are in ancient Thebes (Waset), the southern capital and religious heart of the Egyptian empire. It is Pharaoh Amenhotep III s 39th Regnal Year (Life, Health and Prosperity)... but Pharaoh's days are numbered, his health is failing, and his prosperity cannot buy back any of it. Even Ishtar, the powerful foreign goddess of war and healing whom Pharaoh has appealed to in desperation, is stone cold. Pharaoh is in severe pain. He suffers from abscessed teeth which often erupt into dangerous infections of the mouth and face. The temple priests incense the room and chant their magical spells. The royal physicians, who know what this malady is and also profoundly know it is untreatable, keep a distressed watch. Queen Tiy, who has been the de facto ruler of Kemet for the last few years, lays with Pharaoh on his couch and tenderly wipes the sweat and tears from his face with a cool damp cloth. In the hushed city of Thebes, the people listen. The recurrent screams of pain that reverberate across the Nile from Malkatta palace on the Western bank suddenly cease, only to be replaced in a moment of time with the soft wails of mourning. Pharaoh is dead. The people of Thebes slowly sink to their knees, and reverently begin to pour dust over their heads.
It is not known for certain if Pharaoh's namesake son shared a co-regency with his father, but now Amenhotep IV was sole ruler of Egypt. Unlike his elder deceased brother Tuthmosis who was being groomed for the throne until his death at an early age, Amenhotep IV was an unknown quantity with unknown qualities. The only thing that can be attributed to him before his ascent to the throne, is his name on a wine docket from his father's last Sed Festival. Quite an inauspicious beginning indeed, although it would not long remain so. Amenhotep IV was already married to Nefertiti, and the royal quest for male heirs had begun in earnest. One of the new Pharaoh's first official acts, was a command to build a new temple in the holy precincts of Thebes.
The Royal Architects were in a dither. Their instructions had been explicit. Build a new temple, do this in an unorthodox style, and make it quick. New sandstone quarries were opened at Gebel es Silsila, and one of their solutions was to use a new kind of sandstone brick that could be quarried quickly and uniformly. The temple went up very rapidly, and soon afterwards the subsidiary buildings were also complete. The main temple was named Gm · (t)-p3-itn (Gempaaten), which means "The Sun Disc is Found in the Estate of the God Aten". The others were named Hwt-bnbn (Hut benben / The Mansion of the Benben Stone), Rwd-mnw-n-itn-r-nhh (Rud-menu / Sturdy are the Monuments of the Sun Disc Forever), and Tni-mnw-n-itn-r-nhh (Teni-menu / Exalted are the Monuments of the Sun Disc Forever). The Gempaaten was unique in that it had no roof, and its hundreds of offering tables were exposed to direct sunlight. In Egypt with its tropical climate, this was not only unique but dangerous. Colossal statues of Pharaoh adorned the supporting columns, stone figures which depicted him in a haunting and slightly sinister manner. Like the statues, the sunk relief work carved into the temple walls had only the basest relation to the classicist Egyptian motif. This temple was something that had never before been built in Egypt. The mind of the Pharaoh who commanded its construction was, likewise, totally alien to all who labored under his vision.
Now considered by Egyptologists to be a great stroke of luck, the king's architects were in a hurry and used an unusual sandstone brick which is called a talatat by the inhabitants of modern Karnak. The origin of this is still debated: talatat is an Arabic word which is the plural of three, possibly pointing out that these bricks were three handbreadths long. These talatat temple walls upon completion were decorated with sunk relief scenes in the grotesque early Amarna style of art. After the Amarna Period ended, Pharaoh Horemheb had all of these Aten temple structures torn down, and the talatat bricks were then used as filler material in the new pylons being constructed in the nearby temple of Amun complex. There they remained until their modern day discovery by Egyptologists. By careful analysis of the sunk relief on many individual talatat bricks, Egyptologists of the "Akhenaten Temple Project" were able to put many bricks together contiguously and partially reconstruct the scenes they depicted as a coherent collage. This also enabled them to determine in what order the walls were constructed, and the approximate dates. As the temples grew in size, so too did Pharaohs family. On the walls of Gempaaten dated Regnal Year 2, only a single daughter is depicted (Merytaten - Beloved of the Aten). By the Fourth Regnal Year on the walls of the Hwt-bnbn, a second daughter appears (Mekytaten - Protected by the Aten). As the last walls of the Hwt-bnbn were completed in Pharaoh's 5th Regnal Year, a third daughter is added... Ankhesenpaaten (Living Through the God Aten). Judging by this chronology, and allowing lapse time between birth and eventual depiction, Ankhes was born in Thebes probably sometime in her father's 4th Regnal Year.
With his wife Nefertiti and their three beautiful daughters, Pharaoh loved to sail the Nile in the Royal Barge "Radiance of the Aten", for he was a naturalist and deeply loved mother nature in all her various guises. On one such trip, as the oarsmen keep pace to the beat of a skin drum, Pharaoh orders a halt to the proceedings somewhere roughly midway between Thebes and Memphis. Leaving the protection of his sunshade, he grasps the painted imperial blue cedar rail with one hand, and holds the other up in the universal sign of silence. Though nothing is to be heard but the soft caress of the Nile against the broadside, Pharaoh cocks an ear towards the sky. He silently forms words with his mouth, and periodically nods assent with his head as if listening to instruction from the empty sounds of silence. Abruptly, he falls to his knees in obiescence, and reverently taps his head seven times to the deck. Rising slowly, he points to the desolate eastern bank and shouts triumphantly... "As you command!".
Pharaoh returned to Thebes in haste, and ordered his courtiers to gather in the Gempaaten assembly hall. He had communed with his God the Aten, so he said, and had received instructions to build a new city. He also informed the court that henceforth: he would be known as Akhenaten (Servant of the Aten); all temple possessions, funds, and properties in Egypt would now be applied solely for the benefit of the Aten; a heavy work force corvée would be immediately implemented; and all available soldiery would be assigned to assist in the construction of the new city. It would be called Akhetaten (Horizon of the Aten), and he would move his entire court there. He explained to all that the Aten had commanded him to build there because that is where the original mound of creation was located. It was the land of the Sun Disc, uninhabited by man, and unclaimed by any nearby city. The land also belonged to neither gods nor their temples. In short, it was the holy land of the Sun Disc. Fronted by the Nile on the west and enclosed on the remaining three sides by rocky plateau, it was a natural crescent-moon shaped sandy amphitheater about twelve miles long by three miles wide. The only vegetation was a narrow strip that tightly hugged the riverbank. With the sun's blazing energy contained within by the surrounding wall-like rocky hills, Akhetaten must have been a seething cauldron of heat. A perfect place to begin a revolution.
Akhenaten returned to the site soon afterwards, and in his chariot of electrum marked off the boundary stela for the new city. His family soonafter joined him there, and a great tent was erected as their temporary living quarters. The royal architects, under increasing royal pressure to move with all haste, again employed the technique of the talatat brick. When completed, the city of Akhetaten was unlike any city ever built in ancient Egypt. It was never a small hamlet that increased hodgepodge in size over the millennia, but one that was started and finished in a span of a few years. It was a beautiful city, well planned with a central district and north and south suburbs. The vast white-washed villas of the nobility were located by the river, and boasted aromatic orchards and lush tropical gardens. The city itself was bisected on a north-south axis by an avenue called the Royal Road. The Great Temple of the Aten was in the central district on the western side of the Royal Road. Directly opposite on the eastern side, was the Royal Palace. These two buildings were adjoined by a bridge that spanned the Royal Road, and it is on this covered bridge where the "Window of Appearances" was located. A scene depicted in many private tombs of the local necropolis shows Akhenaten standing in this Window of Appearances, and showering those courtiers below whom he deemed worthy with collars of solid gold. Judging by foundations that have been so far excavated, the palace contained a wing that was called the nursery. Evidently, this is where the young princesses lived. This is where Ankhes grew up. In a few years she would have three younger sisters also living in the nursery with her; Neferneferuaten ta-sherit (Exquisite Beauty of the Sun Disc), Neferneferure (Exquisite Beauty of Re), and Setepenre (Chosen of Re). Why the two youngest sisters are dedicated to Re and not Aten remains a mystery. Colorful tile and plaster fragments from the nursery walls have been found, and some of these are marked with what can only be called... the doodles of young children.
A gentle voice commands Ankhes to stand still as deft fingers finish braiding her sidelock. For the first time Ankhes is to accompany her parents and older sisters to the Great Aten Temple at sunrise, and participate as an acolyte in the religious cult ritual. She has practiced her part - which is shaking the holy sistrum - for countless months now under the tutelage of her nurse, the Lady Tia. Stepping into her sandals, Ankhes closes her painted eyes in total concentration. She slowly begins to shake her sistrum, immediately finding the proper pace and phrasing. Involuntarily, her head also begins to sway with the mystical musical connection. Softly, Tia's warm hands close over her own and gently still them. Though the sound has now ceased, Ankhes continues to sway, unaware that Tia has removed the wooden practice instrument from her hands. Suddenly and swiftly, her kohled eyes snap open in a surprised awareness. Tia is kneeling before her and has in her extended hands a beautifully carved wooden box. Graciously, Ankhes also kneels as Tia lays the box on the faience tiles before her and whispers, "O my princess, you have practiced with diligence and no complaint. Likewise, please accept this gift in happiness without qualm. May its touch greatly stir you, and its beauty radiate with you always." With deliberate glee Ankhes lifts the delicately hinged lid. Inside is a new sistrum of brilliant beaten copper and etched electrum. The handle is of dark ebony with an inlaid ivory inscription.... "Ankhesenpaaten - Our Forever Most Beloved"
The major revolutionary changes in Egyptian culture initiated by Akhenaten are twofold. The first is a dramatic change in religious theology and practice. Akhenaten held that the ancient pantheistic theology of Egypt was false, and in fact there was only one god. This god was a universal deity, and governed not only Egyptians, but all of mankind. The spiritual name of this entity was Re-Herakhte, and the physical manifestation was called Aten, or the Sun Disc. The Aten was an omnipotent god, the good god of light and air and indeed, through benevolence, the visible rays of the Disc nurture life and growth. This was the first time in history that the concept of a one universal god was recorded. Unfortunately, this brilliant initial concept of monotheism contained inherent faults in its genesis, and these flaws would prove to be fatal to its continuance. The most glaring problem, was that although Aten was the universal god of mankind, mankind had no universal channel of personal communication with this diety. At its uppermost and only level, this religious cult was a trinity; composed of a closed triad of Aten, Akhenaten, and Nefertiti. Besides the royal daughters who did assist in the rituals, this was to the exclusion of everyone else. All private supplications to the Aten had to first go through the royal pair before they in turn transmitted it to the god. Similarly, all blessings and instructions from Aten went directly and exclusively to the other members of this triad, Akhenaten and Nefertiti. In truth, this religion was practiced and its adherents remained within the confines of the city of Akhetaten. In all other parts of the country, despite a ban to the contrary, all the gods of Egypt were invoked and worshipped. This monotheistic concept was thus doomed from the start, and after the death of Akhenaten, it vanished from Egyptian culture as if it never existed.
The lasting legacy of Akhenaten is in the unique artwork of the period, and is called "Amarna art". Its base canon of proportions are loosely tied to classic Egyptian, but there all similarity ends. It has been characterized as "expressionist", "sensual", "grotesque" and "humanistic". The Chief Sculptor of Akhenaten, Bek, informs us in his tomb that this craft was taught to him by none other than pharaoh himself. Amarna art makes its first significant appearance on the statuary and talatat of the Gempaaten temple in Thebes. This is its early and most drastic form. Humans are rendered in strange caricature with long angular faces and oblong skulls. After the move to Akhetaten, Amarna art went through a refinement, and it is here where its true beauty is exhibited. In all forms of art; statuary, wall paintings, and carved relief, these refinements are stunning and endearing. Most importantly, for the first time in Egyptian artwork, human emotion and physical motion are portrayed brilliantly. Statuary is composed of different natural materials, all blended together in exquisite construction. In the private necropolis tombs, sunk relief scenes depict the royal family as never before. There is intimate touching, hugging and kissing. There are the young princesses, caught in a frozen frame of time displaying the unmistakable nuances of children. If art is indeed music frozen in time, then these scores are masterpieces worthy of any symphony. Amarna art in subtle form outlasted the Amarna Period, and can be recognized in most Egyptian art that followed through to the Ptolemaic Dynasty.
It is the month of Mesore in the season of Shemu. The Nile Inundation has not yet begun, and the searing heat of the Sun Disc in the city is intolerable. On the banks of the now shallow river, peals of laughter are heard intermixed with sharp commands from strident female voices. The royal nurses have brought all of the children here to cool off and expend their boundless energy. This group is in turn ringed by soldiers guarding against both human and crocodile intruders. All of the young royal charges are present, princes and princesses all. Some swim, some just splash, but all are having a grand time. Eventually, paired teams are formed, with one child sitting on the shoulders of another. The idea is to remain the last team still standing upright in the water. Ankhes is in her element here, still in the tomboy stage and aggressively competitive. On her shoulders is the young prince Tutankhaten (Living Image of the God Aten), who imagines Ankhes as his chariot leading the charge against the enemies of Kemet. One by one the other competitors laughingly tumble into the cool water. Ankhes and Tut clasp each others hands and shout in jubilation. They are the victors, none other stands but them. The gods softly laugh at this ironic omen, for in a few years this prophesy will come to pass. None will survive but Ankhesenpaaten and Tutankhaten. As if hearing the deified laughter, Ankhes begins to sway to and fro to this amusing cadence until at last Tutankhaten is thrown from his imaginary war chariot. True to her destiny, Ankhes now stands alone in the roiling waters of creation.
By the 12th Regnal Year, all six princesses appear in relief scenes depicting a great jubilee at Akhetaten where pharaoh accepts tribute of foreign vassals from Khatti, Nubia, Cyprus, Syria, Palestine, Libya and Punt. Akhenaten had at this time married his eldest daughter Merytaten, and a daughter was born named Merytaten ta-sherit (the younger). Akhenaten probably next married his second daughter Mekytaten, and it appears from relief scenes that she must have died as a result of a pregnancy in Regnal Year 14. It also seems that at this time Akhenaten's mother, the dowager Queen Tiy dies. Undaunted by the family tragedies and desperate to sire a royal male heir, Akhenaten next married his third daughter Ankhesenpaaten. To Ankhes was born yet another female who was named Ankhesenpaaten ta-sherit. Queen Nefertiti at this time is fading in the background, and it is possible that the cause of death of Mekytaten affected her profoundly. It also seems that she was supplanted by a mysterious secondary wife of Akhenaten named Kiya, who was named in reliefs as the "Beloved Wife of Pharaoh". Kiya has been connected by some to the princess Tadukhipa of Mitanni. It is known that Kiya had a daughter and it is very possible, even probable, that she was the mother of the brother princes Smenkhkare and Tutankhaten. After this, nothing more is heard of Nefertiti, Kiya, Neferneferuaten ta-sherit, Neferneferure, Setepenre, or the ta-sherit girls born to the princesses Merytaten and Ankhesenpaaten. It is possible that many of these died of a deadly plague ravaging the Levant at this time. It is also at this juncture that Akhenaten persecutes the gods of Egypt, especially Amun, with a decided vengeance. Could there be a connection between royal family death and pharaonic deicide?
After the death of Queen Nefertiti, probably in Regnal Year 14, Akhenaten took as his Chief Wife and Queen, Merytaten, his firstborn daughter. When Prince Smenkhkare was promoted as Akhenaten's co-regent on reaching manhood, Akhenaten relinquished Merytaten and Smenkhkare took the heiress as wife and queen. Akhenaten died sometime in his 17th Regnal Year. There is no extant account of his death or burial. Upon discovery, his Amarna tomb was found to be ransacked and violently violated. The royal sarcophagus was smashed to pieces. His cartouche and image had been chiseled out and effaced. His final resting place or mummy has never been found. It is entirely possible that the "heretic pharaoh" was disinterred by later successors and his remains and identification destroyed. This would be the terrible "double death" so feared by the ancient Egyptians... for without a name, the gods of judgment would never be able to find you in the afterlife. It would be as if you never existed. However, it is most likely that this did not happen until after the reign of Tutankhamun. From current evidence, it can be deduced that Akhenaten's body was removed from his Amarna tomb and transferred by Tutankhamun to tomb KV55 in the Theban necropolis. Queen Tiy was also removed from Amarna and reinterred here, but she was removed yet once again and wound up in the royal burial cache of Amenhotep II. It is apparant that in KV55 Akhenaten was placed in a coffin that was originally built for a female, the Lady Kiya. Probably when Queen Tiy was removed from KV55, so too was the body of Akhenaten. In his place in the coffin of Kiya in KV55, another royal male was placed. From all available physical evidence, forensic evidence, and powers of deductive reasoning, this body can only be that of Tutankhamun's older brother Smenkhkare. The mummy of Akhenaten was not found in the royal burial cache along with Queen Tiy, so the questions remain.... What happened to Nefertiti, Kiya, the seven princesses who died at Amarna and, more importantly, what happened to Akhenaten? None of their bodies has ever been found.
Shortly before or after the death of her father, Ankhesenpaaten married the young prince Tutankhaten. The reign of Pharaoh Smenkhkare and Queen Merytaten would be very short, as both were deceased within a few years of Akhenaten. The next and last Tuthmosid male heir to the throne was the boy Tutankhaten, probably nine years old at this time. He had not yet reached his majority which at this time was considered to be twelve or thirteen. However, his wife Ankhes was exactly that age. For the next three years, Ankhesenpaaten was not only Queen of Egypt, but also its ruling Regent. After two hundred and seventeen years, Ankhesenpaaten was now the last fully royal female left in the Ahmose/Tuthmosis/Amenhotep line decended from Queen Aahmose-Nefertari.
Prince Tutankhaten and his wife the Princess Ankhesesnpaaten sat together on a double chair in the Great Hall of Assembly in the royal palace at Akhetaten. They were alone. Each sat in the silence of the present and the memories of the past. On the elevated dais, the two elaborate throne chairs languished mute and empty. Both fondly remembered the numerous occasions when Nefertiti had left her chair and sat on the lap of Pharaoh to everyone's bawdry delight. Directly below that was the low long table where the two princes and six daughters sat during the great festivals. Remembered now were the love and play that they had all enjoyed here. Ankhes especially loved the throwing of small bits of wax from the perfumed cones. She suppressed a smile as a memory suddenly overtook her. She had let loose with a bit of warm wax and sent it sailing down the table in the direction of Smenkhkare. By providence, he moved his head and the wax zoomed past... striking Tutankhaten on the tip of his nose and affixing itself there. She had laughed until her sides ached! The remainder of the now silent hall was filled with smaller low tables, mostly bare, but a few still displayed empty wine cups and dried flower bouquets. In the midst of the great hall in the center of the room, was a clearing where temple singers, blind musicians, naked dancers and nimble acrobats had amazed them all with their consummate skills. Yes, they both remembered. This was the city where they had done everything, and yet had done nothing. They had never left the holy city precincts. This was the only life they had ever known. All that was now about to change. They would soon be the King and Queen of Egypt. As if on cue, the great carved doors of the hall opened and Chancellor Ay approached and bowed deeply. He looked each in the eyes, imperceptibly nodded his head and softly said, "All preparations are now complete. If you please, I will escort you to the docks." They were leaving Akhetaten, bound for Thebes and the coronation ceremony. They were still children, and terrified ones at that. However, they left this great empty hall and its precious memories with the dignity of royalty and, after one cursory last look behind, strode out arm in arm to their appointed destinies.
Queen of Destiny Pages
DAWN · THE PRINCESS
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